Retro TV Stars
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 22:46

Ciaran Hester charges on Due South Season 2, Episode 14 - All The Queen's Horses Ciaran Hester charges on Due South Season 2, Episode 14 - All The Queen's Horses

In the mid-90's, the "Mountie-Guy", Paul Gross was all the rage as the ads for his show Due South featured show elements and viewer elements showcasing him as a heart throb.  The premise of the show was that he was an RCMP Officer (Captain Benton Frasier) working in Chicago, and from time-to-time, they would venture off storyline.  It was at the end of the second season that they pulled a huge hook (written by Gross), and Cowboys got to Mount up as Mounties and become TV Stars.

32 Horses and 32 Mounties were to embark from a train, then chase and capture a terrorist on an ATV. Due South: Season 2, Episode 14 - All the Queen's Horses was a highlight of the show's existance, as the casting of men, animals and stunt personnel were of grandscale for a single-episode.

They first cast the Mounted Mounties as "Special Extras."  A look wasn't as important as access to a horse and the ability to ride... and the "Special Extras" featured about 20+ Ontario Rodeo guys and the balance a mix of western and english disciplines... though we all had to ride in English Saddles... and the Mountie Breeches and big boots.

I somehow snuck into this deal... 17 years of age, skinny as a toothpick, on a light bay horse spray painted black.  The second part of the casting was for the "Extras", who were the singing mounties, and they were cast more on the "Look", but also to the body types of the "Special Extras".  My "Extra" had a skinnier neck than me, as our Mountie Jacket's neck velcro chaffed my neck for the 3 days of rehearseal and shooting.

The scenes were filmed on a treacherous hill in the spring time, and underneath the layer of rough grass was a firm layer of ice.  No horses flipped, but there were three really big wrecks of dude's crashing and burning (again...running down an icy hill in an english saddle...)

John Scully, cast as a Mountie on Due South John Scully, cast as a Mountie on Due South

At the stables, all of the "Special Extras" had compared notes on the Cork situation, some had cork's all around (metal spikes on the shoes)... mine didn't.  My horse and a few others only had cork's on their front feet, so, as we flew down the hill and attempted to stop beyond the cameras, it would take a few hundred feet to completely stop.  The horses were really in tune to charging down the hill, and my Dad's borrowed horse either really loved it...or the opposite, and they would come to a stop numerous times inches from a cliff... Johnny's horse would FLY past the cameras, the crew, the other horses and the stop marks.

On the big day of shooting the "Charge", we ran the hill about 9 times with all of the stunt doubles, and then they replaced the doubles with the actors: Leslie Nielsen and Paul Gross.  They asked for a few volunteers to do the charge at a trot with the actors for close-ups, and only 8 of us remained.

I was stoked.  I slid my horse, Frasier (ironically the same name as the character), in behind Leslie Nielsen and we followed them around, up and down the hill.  I was giggling as the Naked Gun Star was like...right there, and I was his "backup" kinda thing.  They directed us to the top of the hill, and our orders were to walk over the breast, Nielsen would yell, "Charge", we would point our lances down and safely, and calmly trot down the cliff.  No worries....

Barry Thomson - the Mountie on Due South Barry Thomson - the Mountie on Due South

We crossed the breast, Nielsen yelled, we lowered our lances and the 10 horses jumped to a trot, though they wanted to go more.  I looked over to Mountie Guy and saw him put the spurs to his took off.  Nielsen's horse, now used to the drill, kept up with the other horse as it had done at a full run 9 times before.  The 8 of us behind kept up as instructed, because we didn't want to re-shoot, and now, all 10 of us are at a full-boar run down the slope again.  It was a surreal moment.  Every time we did the hill, my heart would leave my chest and the horse's would pounce into mine.  Now, the big actors are seemingly out of control, on technically runaway horses, and I was trying to figure out in my head if my horse would have enough steam to overtake one of theirs to stop 'em if we don't all stop after the cameras.

Joe Scully as a Mountie on TV's Due South Joe Scully as a Mountie on TV's Due South

Within seconds, the cameras and crew whirred by us.  I watched Mountie Guy and Nielsen yank the reins, and their horses stopped hard and fast.  Within a fraction of a second, I pulled up a lil' on my reins and could feel the horse's balance, as if to say, "ummm... we're not stopping any time soon"... and lifted my cavalier lance up over my head like an Indian Warrior and let out a lil' battle cry.  Had I not have, I most likely would have impaled Leslie Nielsen.  It took at least another 200 feet for me and my horse to come to a stop, and truly encompassed one of the most exhilerating moments of my life.

The second part of this shoot, my Dad still denies that this happened, though, was highlighted when we were circling the ATV with the "terrorist guy" and Camilla Scott on board.  I swear she dropped her sunglasses a hair and winked at me... really, guy... haha.

It may not be a 3D Titantic Blockbuster, or a timeless Seinfeld or Cheers episode, but it will definitely be one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and my a part of my short-lived Hollywood North career.

I found this video sample online... enjoy!

Can you recognize any of these riders?  Do you remember this show?

View/Make Comments